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Spirituality & Privileged Life


Indisguise
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I think one of the issues that especially in Western forms of spirituality is hardly acknowledged is the degree of privilege of one's life that is sometimes necessary to pursue spirituality, as well as the delusion and ignorance with regard to ones privilege and its role in ones spiritual life.

 

Those who are poor, who struggle with severe family problems, who have problems with unemployment, etc. have a much harder time in terms of spirituality than those who live a prosperous and (survival-related) carefree life. 

 

Now you might say: "but what about those south-east Asian Buddhist monks who live in a hut and own nothing more than their robe, a sewing needle and a razor and only eat 2 bowls of rice and steamed vegetables a day?"

 

The difference is that in those regions and societies, there exist whole structures that can allow one pursue this kind of life, whereas in the West, there don't - and so it would be exeedingly difficult to try to live that way; you would just be considered a homeless bum and in fact, that's most likely what would happen to you.

 

This kind of "privilged spirituality" that I'm talking about is perfectly embodied in a clichee; that of the person in their mid 20s to 30s who never worked a day in their life, who have very wealthy parents who afford them a flat in L.A. Silver Lake, and who are into this kind of "Neo-Advaita-the-universe-will-take-care-of-you" spirituality. I'm sure you know what I mean.

 

And worse than that: privilege and blindness tend to go hand in hand, and many people who are blissfully ignorant will, when they encounter people who live a life that is the precise opposite of what I've been describing so far, give them solutions that they apply to problems in their own life; á la "the universe will take care of you, just let go, repeat these abundance-, wealth- and health- mantras 108 times in the morning, etc..."

 

I found a YT channel which couldn't be more clichee in this regard, it's packed with stereotypes, enjoy😄 

 

My self Love routine

You

 

I think it's because spirituality itself is a privilege, at least in the Western world. And I think that's not good because it shouldn't be only for priviledged people. We are a spiritually crippeled society and we're destroying ourselves and the planet because of it.

 

What are your thoughts? 

 

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Well, there have always been "trustafarians."  This is an old archetype.  I would differentiate here, because "spirituality" is fiscally undemanding, while the "spirituality lifestyle" is fiscally demanding.  It costs one nothing to be mindful in all one's daily activities.  One doesn't have to sit on a cushion 12 hours a day while getting checks from parents.  And while you are right about e.g. the Indian society (especially of old, I assume) supporting a spiritual life, the West has the Internet which levels the playing field in this regard -- and even relatively poor people have smartphones.  So the only thing required to practice spirituality is discernment about spiritual guidance.

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Money brings options. But, if you have an excellent philosophy/spirituality you're better off than someone who is a billionaire. That said, I know the benefits that money brings -- basically freedom to do whatever you want for better or for worse. However, someone who is extremely developed throughout their whole life can do poverty in a way that exceeds the billionaire. I totally understand the "forest dweller" in Indian culture. That happens here in the U.S. too when people retire and move to the remote desert. When your spirituality and practice is keen, you don't really need much that costs a lot of money. Books don't cost a lot of money. Sure, you could travel all around the world and consume so many things if you have money. But often that brings misery too because you don't know how to be content without that deep stimulation all the time, which can ruin your mental and physical health. Even if you have money, you always have the option of practicing frugality. I think it's important not to glorify or romanticize poverty however. It's not fun for most people who are in it at all and a hard life. I'm talking more about the highest-consciousness person who practices frugality and does poverty as a kind of life philosophy -- as a choice. You can imagine someone who has a billion dollars living like a frugal monk, practicing a minimal life for spiritual reasons: to keep themselves healthy and focused on their own self-help, and to help others which is where the true value of life is anyway.

Edited by Joseph Maynor
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Totally feel ya. For me personally, the privilege I'm living is my responsibility to give back to those in need for help.

 

I actually thought about flying to a poor country, with no to little equipment, and live with the folks there for a few weeks, just to get a perspective.

 

Great topic @Indisguise!

 

 

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I am going to pretty much disagree with this entire premise of privilege somehow facilitating spirituality, in that I think it offers a very skewed idea of what spirituality is. Lets take the following as an abbreviation of the premise.
 

"Those who are poor, who struggle with severe family problems, who have problems with unemployment, etc. have a much harder time in terms of spirituality than those who live a prosperous and (survival-related) carefree life. "

 

With any proposition you would have to look at what the real world outcome would be if this were true. The expectation would be that in poor areas we would see a decline in spiritual activities, and an obvious one we can look at statistics for is church. Poor areas have VASTLY higher church attendance and express spiritual views than those areas based around high income - just compare New Orleans (poor) with New York (rich) and its fairly obvious which one of these places has a deeper and wider reaching spiritual culture.

 

Now if you are talking about access to some of the more new-age spiritual stuff like yoga and breathwork classes, then sure - that's stuff costs money, but that ain't the be all and end all of spirituality, and I would argue that there is more spiritual soul in your average church Sunday service in New Orleans, than a hipster yoga class will see in its entire existence.   

 

Now I am totally with you that the privileged are often completely naive, sometimes to ridiculous absurdity, as to how disconnected their lifestyle is from the average working class person, but that doesn't mean that they are actually getting more "spirituality", it just means that they are paying for it to be spoon fed to them rather than making it happen for themselves. That's one of the cool things about spirituality in my opinion, it doesn't really discriminate between the rich and poor, its available to anyone who puts the work in.   

 

Thanks for the YouTube links, they were delicious 🤣

Edited by Adeptus Psychonautica

My YouTube channel - Adeptus Psychonautica

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9 hours ago, Ges said:

Being privileged is relative. Does having your basic needs met equal being privileged? What are the basic needs, anyway?

 

I'll add that it is likely that for many people spirituality is perhaps one of the most basic needs, and that it only changes in how it manifests but never goes away. I could argue that even materialism is a form of spirituality.

Edited by Ges

Have faith.

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I've done harvesting, migrant labor type work as a teenager, young adult.  A lot of very low paying, low skill jobs like that, truck driving, security guard, etc, are very meditative. I live in a poor area of the US but it's very laid back and relaxed and easy to live, very conducive to spirituality if you know where to look and how to direct yourself, even with little resources. 

 

 

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17 hours ago, Indisguise said:

who are into this kind of "Neo-Advaita-the-universe-will-take-care-of-you" spirituality. I'm sure you know what I mean.

 

 

Jesus was neo-advaitan? 🤔😄

 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." - Jesus

 

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@Indisguise

 

Believing the universe will take care of you is very different from feeling the Universe is taking care of You, joining with what is going on. 

 

When you don't have a lot of responsibility and then you get a lot of responsibility it could feel pretty overwhelming, so I believe what happens with very privileged people is they use the belief of the universe taking care of them to try to throw any responsibility away. High maintenance type of person to be around...

 

 

I don't consider spirtuality a privilege, I consider it to be so fundamental that literally everyone is already doing it in their own way. When we first opened up and asked what is all this? 

 

What I do consider a privilege is access to information, we have so much access to information in the first world, but I don't feel many people really understand how to use it. They form some ideal, get lost in it most of the time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

🤍🧠👀

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I think this can go perfectly both ways because it’s conversationally perspectival, in regard to what is without a perspective. Very hypothetically, two scenarios came to mind. Disclaimer though, hold spirituality to = inspection of what is actual, real, non-conceptual, non-belief.

 

This scenario came to mind as more in line with spirituality being something so to speak which is or isn’t privileged. 

 

One scenario, someone has access to the internet & all the trappings of life available, and listens to hours long videos of conceptual assertions, about themself, on a weekly basis.

Scenario two, someone doesn’t have access to the internet, isn’t burdened with as many ‘trappings’, and those hundreds or perhaps thousands of hours after many years, were instead spent meditatively / meditating, or the like. There might not be the apparent mental confinement of the belief in the person who is poor (or rich). 

 

Just ‘two cents’. Not intended to be definitive. 

 

Maybe the only way to “ultimately know”, is feet in the shoes of both. If you’re poor, get rich. If you’re rich, get poor. That brings to mind challenges related to finance, of what’s available to ‘get rich’. Imo, the very challenges are the very means, to ‘getting rich’. But perhaps it depends on wether the person, separate self, is believed to be poor or rich. And maybe if there’s any truth to loa. Or what is, vs what will be. 

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@Adeptus Psychonautica Are you familar with Gordon Allport's extrinsic vs. intrinsic spirituality? I think what Indisguise is talking about is the latter, which is arguably more common for the privileged. Maslow also makes a similar distinction: deficit needs vs. growth needs. People who are poor often feel a stronger pull towards the "lower" deficit needs ("safety", "belonging" and "esteem"), which they can also find in a spiritual community. According to these models, intrinsic or growth-based spirituality is something that more easily flowers once the lower needs are taken care of.

Edited by Space4This
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1 hour ago, Phil said:

I think this can go perfectly both ways because it’s conversationally perspectival, in regard to what is without a perspective. Very hypothetically, two scenarios came to mind. Disclaimer though, hold spirituality to = inspection of what is actual, real, non-conceptual, non-belief.

 

This scenario came to mind as more in line with spirituality being something so to speak which is or isn’t privileged. 

 

One scenario, someone has access to the internet & all the trappings of life available, and listens to hours long videos of someone’s conceptual assertions on a weekly basis.

Scenario two, someone doesn’t have access to the internet, isn’t burdened with as many ‘trappings’, and those hundreds or perhaps thousands of hours after many years, were instead spent meditatively / meditating, or the like. 

 

I was thinking of a similar scenario, without being grounded in Presence, an intellectual foundation could be pretty disconnected. 

 

Does intellect really have any power if it can't feel it's own feet? Kinda just blows away at the slightest breeze.

 

It's funny how access to information can be seen as a privilege or a burden.

 

1 hour ago, Phil said:

Maybe the only way to “ultimately know”, is feet in the shoes of both. If you’re poor, get rich. If you’re rich, get poor. That brings to mind challenges related to finance, of what’s available to ‘get rich’. Imo, the very challenges are the very means, to ‘getting rich’. 

 

To get the full expirence you would have to get rich then get poor again, or get poor and then get rich again 😆

 

Nothing beats the richness of Being though. 

Edited by Loop

🤍🧠👀

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I have pretty strong opinons on this topic. I think a lot of the Western Dharma scene is Dharma Whoring or Dharma-tainment. 

For myself, I can't afford it. It annoys me to see a dharma student have to put up a GoFundMe page when they're accepted to a Western Retreat. It used to be that it was the teachers who lived the Path with the help of donations, now it's the students. It's also a bit annoying that these high priced teachers often learned their craft in the East where they were given the teachings free or by donation. The dharma shouldn't be sold like good in the marketplace. The dharma shouldn't be only accessible to those who can pay the cost. 

 

To be clear, I'm not against a teacher making a living by charging, but I think it's good to reflect and find some model that allows people who can't afford it to receive teachings.

There's another problem with high priced teachings. You get what you get, often a highly homogenous, older, upper class White crowd.

@Adeptus Psychonautica It's also like he says. If I was asked if I'd like to change places with these Western Dharma students who could afford it, I doubt I would. Often it's shopping mall dharma. This month an Adyashanti satsang, next an Eckhart Tolle camp, then a Lama giving some empowerment, then a yoga camp, a visit by a swami, then Butoh dancing. It's spiritual materialism. It can be fun, but also just another rung on the belt. I paid a couple hundred dollars a few years ago to see a popular dharma author locally. I quite liked his book. The weekend was a lot of nothing. It was dharma-tainment. The dharma teacher comes in, we sit in meditation for an hour, then he talks for 45 minutes, tells some funny stories, then another sit, then an amusing talk filled with jokes. Everybody likes it. It's nice enough. But there's no meat, there's no real effort to teach dharma much less try to awaken anyone. It's a feel-good weekend. Maybe that's what sells. Maybe that's what you have to do. It is what it is. Still for $300 I can spend a month at a nice retreat center in India. Room & Board. And get superior instruction. 

 

@Mandy You and I both live in a very sparsely populated rural area in the US. I think at certain stages being isolated is not a disadvantage on the spiritual path. A lot of yogis, swamis, took to the mountains and sought out isolation. Right now, I'm typing this while listening to Samaneri Jayasara's audio of Ryokan poetry. It seems fitting:

 

My life may appear melancholy,

But travelling through this world

I have entrusted myself to Heaven.

In my sack, three sho of rice;

by the hearth, a bundle of firewood.

If someone asks what is the mark of enlightenment or illusion,

I cannot say.......wealth and honour are nothing but dust,

As the evening rain falls I sit in my hermitage

And stretch out both feet in answer.

– Taigu Ryokan

 

 

 

“If trees could scream, would we be so cavalier about cutting them down? We might, if they screamed all the time, for no good reason.” ― The Buddha

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